In pre-European times our land was considered a place of learning, a place where the Tohunga (the wise) would come and learn their craft. In Maori, Wharekauhau means "place of knowledge," and the rich history of the estate is testament to this original name.
The majority of the land was broken in from 1840 and 1870 and transformed into a workable coastal sheep station. The property was owned and managed by a handful of well-known local farming families.
The Shaw family moved to Wharekauhau in 1977, and diversified into the lodge industry in the early 1980’s. They were some of the pioneers in the New Zealand lodge industry, and assisted in blazing a trail for the luxury lodge business. They captured the elements of genuine "kiwi hospitality," station-life, and the finer details to provide the essential added comfort - Wharekauhau Lodge was born.
In 2009 the property was visited by US investor William P. Foley (Bill). Bill was looking to expand his growing wine empire in New Zealand and enjoyed some downtime at Wharekauhau lodge. They fell in love with the place, and six months later Bill and his wife Carol were the proud owners of the Wharekauhau lodge and farm.
The Rowlock Symbol
This farming legend dates back to the beginnings of the Wharekauhau Station.
When the station first began exporting wool over 150 years ago, the remoteness of the station demanded unusual solutions. Wool was collected in large bales, and taken by horse drawn cart down to the beach. Ships would anchor in Palliser Bay back beyond the breaking waves, and the station hands (farm helpers) would row long boats through the treacherous breakers to the waiting ships.
Around 1870, an addition to the national export legislation meant that every bale of wool being shipped had to carry a registered identification mark to show its origin (the original traceability). As news travelled a lot slower back then, this did not reach Wharekauhau until it was nearly too late.
A large shipment of wool from the stations Spring shear was being rowed to the ship, the ship’s captain informed the young farmhand that he would not accept this and it would need to return to shore, and be collected on the next wool-run. The tired farmhand was not about to row back after that hard work, so he agreed with the captain that if he was to use the rowlock from his boat, and borrow a pot of paint from the ship, he could brand the wool bales.
As the ship was stopping at the Western neighbor – Orongoronga Station – before arriving in Wellington to resupply before its trans-Pacific journey, the farmhand was able to saddle up his horse and ride across the Rimutaka incline and into Wellington city where he officially registered the rowlock as the identification mark of the farm.
This is where the Wharekauhau brand was born, and today it still stands for the same qualities of uniqueness, hard work and individuality which inspired it.